Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese Over Polenta Cakes {Recipe}

Last week I shared my Homemade Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms and filled you in on the various ways in which I use it – for pizza, pasta, meatballs, and as a starter for a multitude of sauces, including my bolognese. I have traditionally made my bolognese sauce with ground turkey breast, ground beef, or a mixture of the two. But keeping a Kosher home means I can’t sprinkle cheese on top of my pasta with meat bolognese, and if you’ve been around my blog you surely know I love my cheese! So it was about time I made a vegetarian bolognese that could be topped with cheese.

Sure, I could add cheese to any of the other non-meat sauces I make, but I wanted that rich, umami flavor that you find in traditional bolognese sauces. And boy did I achieve this goal.

I took my already umami-rich tomato sauce with mushrooms and added lentils, which amplified the meatiness of the sauce to the point that my lentil-averse husband had no idea this was a meatless dish. (Apparently he didn’t pay attention to the cheese on top of the bolognese. He didn’t grow up Kosher, so I’ll cut him some slack!) I also added spinach for some added nutrients and flavor (and as a good way to get my kids to eat spinach!).

Nutrition Tip: Did you know the iron in spinach is more bioavailable when combined with vitamin C? And guess what – tomato sauce is an excellent source of vitamin C, so it’s the perfect place to add spinach!

Normally I serve bolognese over whole wheat pasta, but in the spirit of mixing things up I decided to put it over polenta cakes. I’m not so into mushy, porridge-like polenta, but polenta fries and polenta cakes are delish! I recently saw a fellow Recipe ReDux participant use Trader Joe’s packaged polenta roll as a base for huevos rancheros and since then I’ve been curious to try it out. Now was the perfect opportunity.

Lightly pan-fried polenta cakes covered in meaty, umami-rich, vegetarian lentil bolognese, sprinkled with grated Parmesan. Now that’s a meal worth repeating! Try it for your next Meatless Monday meal!

(By the way, check out the nutrition facts – you can’t beat them for such a flavorful, filling Italian-style meal!)

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese over Polenta Cakes


Prep Time

10 mins

Cook Time

50 mins

Total Time

1 hour

Vegetarian lentil bolognese served over polenta cakes and sprinkled with grated Parmesan is a filling, flavorful, and low-calorie meal.

Author: Jessica

Recipe Type: Dinner, Entree

Cuisine: Italian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free

Serves: 5


For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2½ cups sliced baby bella (crimini) mushrooms (8 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 26-28 ounces canned or boxed crushed/finely chopped tomatoes (preferably no-salt added)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach (~1½ ounces)
  • 1 cup prepared lentils

For the Polenta Cakes:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 package pre-cooked polenta, cut into 10 slices
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)


For the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-large pot over medium high.
  2. Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally until translucent and starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and stir occasionally until water from the mushrooms has released and begins to evaporate, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rosemary, thyme, oregano, and tomato paste to mushroom onion mixture and stir to combine for 30 seconds. Add balsamic vinegar and stir, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add crushed/finely chopped tomatoes, water, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in baby spinach and lentils, cover, and simmer 10 minutes more.

For the Polenta Cakes:

  1. Preheat oven to bake at 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. Spread polenta slices on prepared baking sheet and coat tops with cooking spray. Bake for 7 minutes, flip and bake another 5 minutes until heated through and slightly crisp on the outside.
  3. Serve polenta cakes with vegetarian bolognese on top and sprinkle with Parmesan.


The longer you simmer the sauce, the deeper and richer the flavor becomes.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 2 polenta cakes, ½ cup sauce, 2 tsp Parmesan Calories: 203 Fat: 7 Sat Fat: 1 Carbohydrates: 28 Sugar: 6 g Sodium: 574 mg Fiber: 7 Protein: 6 Cholesterol: 3


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